Note Quite General Tso’s Chicken

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken

While my first attempt at a slimmed down General Tso’s Chicken didn’t turn out completely as I had hoped, and wasn’t quite what General Tso’s Chicken should be, it did turn out to be quite lovely! It had a very spicy element along with a little sweet. It was good and I would make this again, but I’m going to have to experiment a little more. For now I’ll share this with you, because really if you like a little sweet an spicy then this is the dish for you!

What You’ll Need:
1 tablespoons of sesame oil
3-4 scallions, chopped (both white and green parts), Plus additional scallions cut into strips for garnishing
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 large green chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of rice vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup of honey
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup corn starch
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2-3 cups of steamed broccoli
Cooked brown rice (Note: Brown rice takes about an hour to cook so keep this in mind. The dish itself takes about 30-35 minutes from start to finish.)

In a medium sized pot over medium heat saute scallions, ginger, chili pepper and crushed red pepper flakes until onion is wilted and tender. Stir occasionally to keep from burning.

When onion is tender add soy sauce, rice vinegar, sea salt, honey and 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir together remaining chicken broth with 1/3 cup of corn starch until smooth and add to the pot. Stir sauce until thickened (this usually takes a minute or two) and remove from heat.

Let sauce cool for a minute and then strain into a bowl. Set aside.

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken: Browned Chicken

While the sauce is cooking, in a large skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil sauté chicken until browned and done through. Once cooked add strained sauce and cook for a minute or two to let the flavors meld.

While the chicken is cooking steam broccoli and the strips of green onion until tender. (Note: I usually do this in the microwave by putting a few tablespoon of water in the bottom of a glass bowl and then putting the vegetables on top. It takes about 2-3 minutes in my microwave.)

To assemble place a cup of rice on a plate and then top with the chicken/sauce mixture. Top with the steamed scallions and broccoli. Serve immediately.

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken

How easy and delicious is that?

Notes: You could do this with shrimp or beef instead. Or if you wanted an entirely vegetarian dish you could use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and mushrooms or tofu instead of meat. If you wanted to make it vegan you’d have to find a substitute for the honey. Agave nectar might work, but I’d have to play around with that to be sure.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Every couple of weeks we have pizza night. Jamison always has a tomato sauce with pepperoni and ground beef on a gluten free crust with rice mozzarella, Alexis usually has a tomato sauce with mozzarella, Parmesan and black olives, though as of late she has eschewed the olives and me, well I like to switch it up. Sometimes I have Chicken, Artichoke and Spinach Pizza or a Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes or taking the dough and making a Calzone or you can leave out the crust all together and make Eggplant Pizzas. The possibilities are endless!

This go around I decided to make something a bit more contemporary and put together a Barbeque Chicken Pizza on a White Whole Wheat Crust! You can top this any way you like and you end up with a personalized pizza that hits the spot! What’s better than that?

What You’ll Need For the Crust:
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of honey
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl stir together flour and salt to incorporate. In a glass measuring cup add honey and yeast to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add olive oil to the flour mixture and then slowly add water/yeast mixture stirring until ball of dough forms. (Note: Depending on humidity and such you may need a little more or a little less water. Eyeball it as you go. Once the ball forms you’ll know to stop. It’s hard to mess this recipe up. It’s very forgiving. If you go too far with the water then add more flour a tablespoon at a time until ball forms. If you need more water then add it a tablespoon at a time. Easy peasy.)

Once the dough ball forms you need to let it rise. This make roughly one large pizza or 4-6 personal sized pizzas depending on how big you like them. I like to make personal sized pizzas so that way everyone can have their own favorite toppings. If you’re making one big pizza simply place the dough on a baking sheet in your oven with your oven light on (the oven light puts out just enough heat to rise to dough) or if you want to make personal sized pizzas divide the dough into 4 to 6 small balls and place on a baking sheet and follow the same procedure as for the large ball. You can freeze the dough balls before you let them rise if you want to use them later and then pull them out and let them thaw and rise at another time. If you aren’t freezing the dough then let the dough balls rise for at least one hour. Then roll or push out the dough on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper (use a little olive oil on your hands to keep it from sticking) and top with your favorite pizza toppings to bake.

What You’ll Need To Complete The Personal Sized Pizza:
1/4-1/3 cup of barbecue sauce
1/2 cup of shredded chicken
1/3 cup of mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup of Parmesan, shredded
1/4 cup of sliced black olives
1/4 of an onion, chopped (Note: I used Vidalia, but any onion will work.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Spread a layer of barbecue sauce out onto the spread out crust. Next add a layer of chicken. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan and then add olive and onion. Bake for 8-12 minutes until crust is golden brown, cut and serve.

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Notes: Pineapple is a good addition to this pizza. Green peppers work too.

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake

Last week was a long week! Seriously it was jam packed busy. I had planned to make a Tart on Friday to serve on Saturday when our friends came over for an early dinner/ play date, but my sister called me to come help her out so she could pack for their trip to Tennessee and well baby cuddles won out! I mean seriously how cool and creamy does this look?

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake: Jumping In

This really hit the spot on Saturday when the temperature topped out somewhere in the hundreds with a heat index of who knows what and humidity in the twelvety two billion range! Let’s get a little closer look at that shall we?

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake: A Bite

Doesn’t that just look cool and creamy? Yum!

What You’ll Need:
1 sleeve of graham crackers
1/4 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter, melted
1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 – 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (Note: I used fat free.)
1/2 cup Nellie and Joe’s Double Strength Key Lime Juice

(Note: This recipe involves “cooking” your crust in the microwave oven so you must use a glass pie dish. If you want to use metal or use a springform pan you’ll have to bake the crust in the oven until golden. If you wanted to you could buy a pre-made crust.)

Crush graham crackers and a medium sized bowl. Add sugar and butter and stir to mix. Set aside.

Spray a glass pie dish with non-stick spray and press the crust into the dish. Place in the microwave for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes until the crust hardens slightly. Set aside to cool while making the filling.

In the bowl of your mixer cream together cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until completely smooth. Add key lime juice and mix until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pie shell an spread out to cover the entire crust.

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake: Ready For The Fridge

Place pie dish in the fridge for at least 3 hours (overnight is better). When ready to serve cut into slices (sometimes the first slice is a bit of a mess) and serve with whipped cream if desired.

No Bake Key Lime Cheesecake: Sliced

Note: You could do this with either lemon or orange juice instead if Key Lime isn’t your thing.

Stuffed Pork Chops

Stuffed Pork Chops

I get bored with food. More specifically I get bored with the food that Jamison will eat. How he eats such a bland diet and does so over and over is beyond me! I can’t even begin to explain to you how much I love him, but I get bored with his food quickly! ;o) So sometimes when I’m thinking of what to make for dinner I’ll make something plain he’ll eat (in this case a pork chop) and kick it up a bit so that I’m not having to eat the same things over and over and over. In my mind life is too short not to try different things!

A while back I saw Tyler Florence stuff a pork chop. I don’t remember exactly what his had in it, but it had another form of pork (either pancetta or ham) and some sort of cheese, then again maybe it wasn’t Tyler and maybe there was no cheese, but I specifically remember thinking “Really? Pork twice?” and then I started thinking about hardening arteries and heart disease and life in general…See how that works? See how I just get sidetracked like that?

Where was I? Oh yes….Stuffed pork chops!

Anyway, the other day I decided to try my hand at stuffed pork chops, but I decided that two forms of pork was just a bit much. So I started thinking of things that go well with pork chops and apples were the first thing that came to mind. Then I started thinking about something that would meld well with the apples and immediately thought of blue cheese and thus these babies were born!

Stuffed Pork Chops: The Inside

Once baked the flavors just combine perfectly! The apples soften and meld with the blue cheese and the whole overall taste is just superb! Pair the chops with a little wild rice and a steamed vegetable and you’ve got a wonderful meal that is sure to wow! These chops take the ordinary and very easily make them extraordinary. What’s better than that?

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 thick cut pork chop
1/4 of an apple, cut into thin rounds
1 ounce of blue cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. (Note: I actually baked these in my toaster oven.)

First you want to cut a pocket into your thick chop. You do this by cutting in to the thickest part of the chop. Insert the knife and make a clean cut, making a pocket, but do not cut it alll the way through. You want a pouch, not two separate pieces of pork.

Once the pork chop is cut, then cut an apple into thin rounds and place the rounds inside the pocket:

Stuffed Pork Chops: Apples Slices

Next top the apples with blue cheese:

Stuffed Pork Chops: Blue Cheese

After you add the cheese you want to secure your chop. I used cooking twine, but you can use toothpicks if you want:

Stuffed Pork Chops: All Tied Up

Brush the top of the chop with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until pork is done through. (Note: I know some people advocate baking pork like beef, but not me! Pork has to be well done. If it is not well done then don’t eat it! Trichinosis anyone? Didn’t think so!)

Stuffed Pork Chops: Baking

Remove from oven, untie and serve immediately.

Notes: You could use goat cheese and pears if you liked instead of apples and blue cheese.

Ridiculously Easy Labneh Cheese

Labneh

As much as I love to cook, I really, really, really, really, really, really and did I mention really HATE to shop! I don’t like to shop for clothes, shoes, craft supplies, gardening equipment, computer stuff, food, or well anything! I’m just not a shopper. I never really have been. I’d rather spend time at the park, or near a body of water or at the library or on a picnic or on a walk or with friends or well you get the picture.

Anyway, now that you get how much I hate shopping we’ll get on to the real story. Sometimes you just run across the most interesting people when you’re out and about and I just love it when you click with someone right off the bat. The other day when Alexis and I were at the market I grabbed a tub of Greek yogurt. A lady standing nearby asked me if I had ever made cheese before. I told her about my mozzarella and goat cheese. She then told me I had to try to make yogurt cheese. “Take that container of Greek Yogurt, add the juice and zest of a couple of lemons, along with a pinch of salt (which I actually forgot, but oh well), tie it up in some cheesecloth (we’ll talk more about this below), tie it onto a dowel rod and suspend it in your refrigerator overnight over a bowl and in the morning you’ve got yogurt cheese. It’s perfect and just so tangy! I forget what the actual name of the cheese is…Google ‘yogurt cheese’ and you’ll be set!” We talked for a few more minutes about other things and then went on our respective ways. I call this a drive by friendship. 😉

So it’s no surprise I was completely intrigued. I came home and got started. I Googled ‘Greek Yogurt Cheese’ and found that it’s called Labneh. I also discovered that a lot of different people make it many different ways. I decided to follow the lady’s description from the store since we hit it off so well and she swore it was the way to go. What I ended up with is a smooth, creamy cheese along the lines of goat cheese, with a hint of tangy citrus and the best part is this is ridiculously easy to make!

What You’ll Need:
1 – 1 pound container of fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I used Okios.)
The zest of 2 lemons
The juice of two lemons
A pinch of sea salt (Note: I forgot to add the salt and the cheese turned out fine.)

In a bowl stir together yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice and sea salt until fully incorporated. Place yogurt mixture into triple layered cheesecloth. (Note: I have very fine cheesecloth and I originally tried to use just one layer and the yogurt oozed through so I had to use another piece of cheesecloth and layer it to get it to work correctly.) Secure the edges of the cheesecloth into a bundle and tie onto a dowel rod:

Labneh In Cheesecloth

Place the dowel in the fridge propped up over a bowl so that the cheese can drain overnight, but make sure it’s up high enough so that the bottom of the bundle does not go into the liquid that has drained.

The next day open the cheesecloth remove the cheese. Place it into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Labneh Chilling

Notes: You could add herbs into the cheese after it’s made by blending them in. As I mentioned this cheese has much the same consistency of goat cheese, so you could use it anywhere you would use that. It’s also cheaper to make, than to buy goat cheese so that’s always a plus. And the coolest thing…It’s fat free, though you would never, ever guess that by taste!